|Industry||Rail freight transport|
|Eddie Aston (CEO)|
|Services||Bulk freight, Intermodal freight transport and logistics|
Number of employees
|Parent||Genesee & Wyoming (95%)|
|Divisions||Intermodal, Heavy Haul, Maintenance|
|Subsidiaries||European Rail Shuttle|
Freightliner Group is a rail freight and logistics company headquartered in the United Kingdom. It is presently a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American holding company Genesee & Wyoming.
It was originally created as Freightliner Ltd as a British government-owned company as per the Transport Act 1968. From its onset, Freightliner was focused on the haulage of international traffic, thus came to centre its activities around Britain's sea ports, often building new multimodal freight depots adjacent to such locations to better capture this business. During the late 1970s, it was reorganised under British Rail, and became a part of its Railfreight Distribution subsidiary during the late 1980s. Work to expand the loading gauge on routes such as the East Coast Main Line were undertaken, allowing trains hauling larger containers to be routes, were conducted around this time. Numerous domestic depots previously operated by Freightliner were closed during the 1990s in preparation for the Privatisation of British Rail that same decade.
As a consequence of the privatisation initiative, the business unit was reorganised as Freightliner Limited; on 25 May 1996, it was privatised and bought out through a management buyout, supported by 3i and Electra Private Equity, in exchange for £5.39M. Freightliner quickly set about modernising and expanding its locomotive fleet, ordering both Class 57 (rebuilt Class 47s) and new-build Class 66s locomotives to fulfill this role. During 1999, it established the Heavy Haul business; five years later, the Logico service was also launched. By 2014, Freightliner Limited had become the largest intermodal freight transport operator in the United Kingdom, as well as the second largest freight operating company in the country by revenue, behind DB Cargo UK. It had also expanded its operations into various other countries, including Australia, the Netherlands and Poland. On 13 June 2008, Freightliner Group was purchased by Railinvest Holding Company Limited, a subsidiary of Arcapita Bank of Bahrain. During February 2015, Freightliner was acquired by the American company Genesee & Wyoming.
The idea of shipping freight in set-sized containers went back to the 1930s in the UK with the adoption of the Conflat system. But it was Dr Richard Beeching who, in his report Reshaping Britain's Railways, advanced the concept of containerised freight in the UK.
Beeching proposed 55 depots placed strategically across the UK, serviced by fixed-consist permanently-coupled air-braked trains, with an average journey between depots of 150 miles and a shortest distance of 50 miles. British Railways progressed with the concept, envisaging 40 ft length wagons - later increased to 60 ft - carrying 8 ft by 8 ft standard sized international shipping containers in lengths to 10 ft to 27 ft, later adapted to 20 ft to 40 ft (NB: These BR UK adopted standards were formed on the basis of analysis of then current international intermodal practise, and latter adopted as the base of the internationally agreed ISO 668). Containers would be loaded at the dedicated inland terminals, using gantry cranes for transshipment between road and rail.
During January 1964, the prototype flat wagon was produced by Shildon railway works; later that same year, 100 production wagons were turned out from Ashford railway works. The first revenue-earning train ran between York Way/Maiden Lane in North London and Gushetfaulds in Glasgow on 15 November 1965. Soon adopting the Freightliner name, the first single-shipper train was operated on 20 August 1968, hauling specially-designed 30-foot containers carrying parts for Ford Escort cars that were destined for assembly in plants on the European mainland.
Beeching's original concept envisioned Freightliner servicing a domestic freight market, which by 1968 had resulted in British Railways developing 17 purpose-built depots. However, Freightliner's most profitable routes were those servicing Britain's major ports, specifically traffic to/from Europe and Ireland, as well as import/export traffic to the rest of the world. This pattern of profitability was recognised in the Transport Act 1968, where by Freightliner became a separate listed commercial company wholly owned by the UK Government, but which leased its UK domestic rail transport from British Railways.
By the end of the 1960s, Freightliner operated 28 terminals and 56 routes, however, the company's shift in focus from the original domestic freight market to the international market serviced via ports continued for the next 30 years, with many of the original domestic depots which did not service port traffic either never opening or eventually closing (i.e.: Kings Cross, Sheffield, Swansea, Swindon), whilst investment in seaport depots - specifically Southampton, Harwich, and the Port of Felixstowe where Beeching's plan had never envisaged a depot - continued at an increasing pace. Part of the consolidation of rail depots was enabled by a greater focus on Freighliner's own HGV network of dedicated lorries, which expanded the servicing footprint of each rail depot, and hence allowed increased efficiency through creating longer and better utilised train routes.
Dudley Freightliner Terminal, 10 miles (16 km) from Birmingham, on the site of the old railway station was opened in October 1967. This initially proved to be one of the most profitable such terminals in the country, while the Birmingham terminal was ultimately one of the least financially viable. In 1981, due to a lack of international traffic, Freightliner was planning to close Dudley and transfer its function to Birmingham. Given a reprieve in 1983, it finally closed during 1986.
Increasing Irish traffic resulted in a depot being opened at the Port of Holyhead, as well as Freightliner having dedicated operations in both Belfast and Dublin. This also resulted in UK Government granting Freightliner funds to create a dedicated multimodal terminal at the Port of Liverpool to replace its previously lost rail freight traffic, and then further investment in second multimodal terminals at both Felixstowe and the Port of Tilbury.
The Transport Act 1978 brought Freightliner back inside the control of British Railways, mostly driven by the investment required to enable shipping of both 8 ft 6inch and 9 ft height containers across the loading gauge restricted UK rail network.
Freightliner immediately made a major pitch to the BR Board to allow 8 ft 6in boxes to be carried on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), which involved lowering the track in Stoke area, as well as the tunnels at Peascliffe and Penmanshiel. The work was successfully completed at Stoke and Peascliffe, but Penmanshiel Tunnel collapsed during the project. The extent of the collapse meant that reconstruction was too expensive, resulting in the abandonment of around one kilometre (1,100 yards) of the existing ECML (including the tunnel itself), being replaced by a new section of line constructed in open cut to the west of the original course. The operation to reopen the railway took five months of round-the-clock working. Contractor Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd started work on the new alignment on 7 May 1979, and it was completed on 20 August. As a result of the work to re-align the railway line, it was also necessary to alter the course of the A1 trunk road. Ironically Freightliner would later withdraw its services on that stretch of the ECML.
During the 1980s, Freighliner became part of BR's 1980s non-bulk Railfreight Distribution (RfD) division, which brought about its first ever allocation of locomotives. After experimenting with other rail operators solutions to coping with the new larger containers, in 1990 BR agreed the order of 700 flat-wagons from SNCF supplier Arbel Fauvet Rail, which could immediately accommodate 8 ft 6inch height containers at 75 mph speeds. This was further supplemented in 1991 with leased flat-wagons from Tiphook. Further experimentation with SNCF-leased Multifret flat-wagons - which could accommodate 9 ft containers at speeds of up to 90 mph - led to the initial ordering of 45 BR specified Lowliner wagons, which with a deck height of just 720mm could accommodate 9 ft high containers, on routes approved for 8 ft 6inch containers using the existing wagon fleet.
Although designed to accommodate 9 ft containers over the entire BR network, the slow output of Lowliners meant that the entire allocation were utilised to service London Thamesport, enabling the transport of 8 ft 6inch containers on the restricted loading gauge of the former South Eastern and Chatham Railway. The withdrawal of Sealinks dedicated freight service from Holyhead also brought about the end of Freightliner's dedicated service to Northern Ireland via North Wales.
As part of the Privatisation of British Rail, the loss-making RfD division came under increasing pressure, leading to the immediate closure of the Speedlink division. Freightliner closed the residual domestic-serving depots, including London's Willesden and Stratford, Bristol (closed in 1992, later reopened in 2014) Glasgow Gushetfaulds, and consolidation of Manchester's traffic on the newly opened Euroterminal (later switched back to the previously closed Trafford Park).
The Freightliner business unit had its assets transferred into a new company, Freightliner (1995) Limited, in preparation for sale. Rejected as not sufficiently profitable by the Wisconsin Central-owned English Welsh & Scottish Railway, on 25 May 1996, Freightliner was purchased by a management buyout backed by 3i and Electra Private Equity for a sum of £5.39M. As part of the sale agreement, the UK Government awarded the company a track-access grant of £75M up until the year 2000.
Freightliner's immediate need was for improved reliability from its locomotive fleet. During 1997, the company commissioned Brush Traction to rebuild of six of its Class 47 locomotives to create the Class 57, which was fitted with reconditioned General Motors power units and reworked ex-Class 56 alternator groups. The first of these was released in July 1998, and coincided with the unveiling of the new British Racing Green Freightliner livery. After an evaluation period, Freightliner was sufficiently impressed to order a further six in June 1999, with plans for an eventual fleet of twenty-five. However, in actuality, no additional Class 57s were delivered to Freightliner, largely due to the company opting to place orders for new-built Class 66s, all being leased from Porterbrook.
During 1999, Freightliner established its Heavy Haul business. In March 2004, Freightliner launched Logico, providing short-term or one-off spaces on intermodal trains, it is typically active at major British freight hubs such as the South Wales International Terminal and the Port of Felixstowe. By 2014, Freightliner was actively trying to increase such trains in response to requests for higher service frequencies from ports.
During 2007, Freightliner commenced operations in Poland; its primary activity in the Polish market has been the haulage of aggregates and coal traffic.
On 13 June 2008, Freightliner Group was purchased by Railinvest Holding Company Limited, a subsidiary of Arcapita Bank of Bahrain.
On 30 June 2009, Freightliner commenced operations in Australia, having secured an initial contract with Namoi Cotton Co-operative to haul containerised processed cotton traffic in New South Wales. Over the following six years, it would become an accredited rail service provider in Western Australia, Southern Australia and Queensland, as well as expanding into hauling coal and other agricultural traffic for various customers in New South Wales.
In February 2015, the sale of Freightliner from Arcapita Bank to American company Genesee & Wyoming was arranged. Under the deal, Genesee & Wyoming purchased a 95% shareholding which increased to 100% in 2020. At the time of the acquisition, Freightliner's portfolio comprised approximately 250 standard gauge locomotives along with 5,500 wagons, and had a headcount in excess of 2,500 employees worldwide.
On 12 November 2015, British Rail Class 47 No. 47830 (D1645), which is operated by Freightliner, was named Beeching's Legacy to mark 50 years since the first container train ran under British Rail.
In April 2018, Freightliner unveiled its new brand identity during an event at the NEC Birmingham, bringing the brand inline with parent company Genesee & Wyoming.
On 1 July 2019, it was announced that Freightliner's parent company Genesee & Wyoming is to be bought for US$8.4bn by a consortium including Brookfield Infrastructure, GIC and Brookfield's institutional partners.
Freightliner Group has the following subsidiaries:
When Freightliner was privatised in 1996, it only operated Intermodal container services. These ran from ports including Felixstowe, Southampton and Tilbury to terminals such as Birmingham, Trafford Park in Manchester, Stourton (Leeds), Coatbridge (Central Scotland), Ashton Gate (Bristol), and Wentlooge (Newport, South Wales). The network has been expanded with additional destinations added. Freightliner also operate an extensive road distribution network with 300 road vehicles. Freightliner also provides drivers for Scottish TransPennine Express services.
In 1999, Freightliner set up Heavy Haul initially operating railway infrastructure trains for Network Rail moving ballast, rails etc. before moving into other bulk loads including aggregates, cement, coal, petroleum, scrap metal and waste. Initially run as a division of Freightliner Limited, in 2001 operations were transferred to a new subsidiary, Freightliner Heavy Haul Limited. Reportedly, Heavy Haul operations were hit particularly hard during the Great Recession that started in 2008, but, the firm was actively acquiring additional wagons and staff in order to accommodate new growth on top of the recovery of demand from many of its established customers by 2015. Furthermore, due to a lack of available slots on most mainlines, there was an increased emphasis on running longer trains rather than routing additional ones.
During April 2006, Freightliner Maintenance Limited was established as a separate entity dedicated to the repair and maintenance of traction and rolling stock. It acquired a maintenance depot and took on 13 staff in Leeds from a former supplier that same year, and was promptly made responsible for the maintenance of Freightliner's 75 Heavy Haul locomotives. Within its first three years, the division had extended its scope into wagon maintenance, and was reportedly consistently achieving a 95% availability rate on the company's 657 coal wagons; it also had engineering teams and mobile workshops stationed in Birmingham, London, Bristol, York, Scotland and Crewe that undertook scheduled maintenance along with unexpected call-outs. The subsidiary competitively tenders for maintenance work, without any preference from the rest of the company. By 2011, Freightliner Maintenance was servicing all 111 of the company's UK-based Class 66 locomotives, and had branched into both track maintenance and rail freight development activities as well.
In October 2021, the company switched most of its electric operations to diesel trains due to the increased cost of electricity. One month later, Freightliner announced positive results from an alternative fuel trial it was conducted for its diesel-powered fleet, allegedly halving the carbon emissions incurred.
During 2006, Freightliner expanded its operations into Poland. A subsidiary company, Freightliner PL Sp. z o.o., was established to bid for contracts hauling coal traffic. The first contract was for coal transport from Lubelski Węgiel Bogdanka SA near Bogdanka (Bogdanka-Lublin coal mine) to Kozienice Power Station. The service began in September 2007. Most of Freightliner PL's services operate on the Gdańsk to Warsaw corridor and in southern Poland. In February 2015, Freightliner PL signed a €17·5m contract to lease five Newag Gliwice 5 MW electric six-axle E6DCF Dragon locomotives from ING Lease. With each equipped with a 520 kW diesel engine for last-mile operation, they are scheduled to be delivered from May to July 2016. Furthermore, Freightliner opted to export 13 of its Class 66 locomotives from the UK to Poland for operations there.
Freightliner began exploring opportunities in the Australian rail market with Freightliner Australia Pty Ltd established by April 2007. By June 2008 Freightliner Australia had been accredited as a rail operator in the state of New South Wales and by September 2009 also had accreditation in Queensland and Western Australia. In June 2009, Freightliner Australia commenced operating containerised cotton services from Wee Waa to Port Botany. In September 2009 Freightliner Australia signed a 10-year deal with Xstrata to haul export coal from the Hunter Valley to Newcastle, commencing in late 2010. Under the deal, Xstrata own the rolling stock with Freightliner Australia providing the engineering, logistics, maintenance and operational support. In May 2012, Freightliner Australia commenced operating a Warren to Port Botany service.
During October 2016, Glencore, who had purchased Xsrata, sold its Hunter Valley coal haulage business to Genesee & Wyoming Australia that is also owned by Freightliner's parent company Genesee & Wyoming. The deal which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close on 1 December 2016.
The Freightliner Coal business, whilst holding separate accreditation, was merged into the existing Genesee & Wyoming business after the sale of the Parent Genesee and Wyoming Inc was bought by Brookfield. The business is included in the sale of GWA to Aurizon Holdings.
Main article: European Rail Shuttle B.V.
In 2013, Freightliner bought Netherlands-based intermodal container operator European Rail Shuttle B.V. from Maersk Line. This subsidiary, has focused on the cross-border intermodal traffic that runs between the northern European ports of Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and Hamburg to various cities across Germany, Poland, Italy and elsewhere in continental Europe.
Freightliner inherited a fleet of ageing Class 47 diesel locomotives and Class 86 and Class 90 electric locomotives from British Rail.
In 1997, Freightliner placed an order for six Class 57 locomotives. These were rebuilt by Brush Traction at Loughborough from Class 47s and fitted with a refurbished EMD engine and a reconditioned alternator, improving reliability and performance. The first was delivered in July 1998. After an evaluation period Freightliner was sufficiently impressed to order a further six in June 1999.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Freightliner placed multiple orders for new-build Class 66s, cumulating in 111 locomotives being delivered to the company. In order to better haul heavier trains, Freightliner directed that several of its Class 66s be regeared, which resulted in a reduced maximum speed in exchange for a higher tractive effort. Once in service, the type proved to be quite reliable, with Freightliner reportedly recording a regular availability rate of 98% along with an average of 70,000 miles between failures, more than double that of the Class 57 fleet. By 2004, the company's Class 66s had replaced all of the Class 47s, as well as the Class 57s after another two years. Freightliner also leased some Class 66s that had been formerly operated by Direct Rail Services.
During November 2007, Freightliner announced an order for 30 Class 70s under a project called Project Genesis. The first two were delivered in November 2009. These have released a number of Class 66s with five going to Colas Rail, 13 to Freightliner Poland and four to GB Railfreight.
Freightliner also use their single Class 47 (47830) on driver route learning.
Freightliner PL ordered seven EMD Class 66s as well as 432 Greenbrier Eamnoss type coal hopper wagons. These have been supplemented by an EMD Class 66 formerly used by Häfen und Güterverkehr Köln and 12 Class 66s transferred from Freightliner's UK operations. A 13th was sent from the UK in October 2012. These units underwent various modifications to allow them to operate on the Polish network.
Freightliner Australia commenced operations using hired in GL class locomotives from Chicago Freight Car Leasing Australia. After a longer-term lease was agreed, two were repainted into Freightliner livery in September 2010. The Warren service that commenced in May 2012 also uses locomotives hired from CFCLA. The Xstrata coal contract is operated by XRN class locomotives that are owned by the customer. Wagon types are PHEH and PHYH for the coal traffic and CQBY, CQFY and CQYY on the grain traffic.
In January 2015, two G class locomotives were purchased.
|Class||Image||Type||Built||Wheel arr.||In traffic||Numbers||Notes|
|08||Diesel Shunter||1953||0-6-0||10||08077, 08530, 08531, 08575, 08585, 08624, 08691, 08764, 08785, 08891|
|59||Diesel locomotive||1985-1995||Co-Co||4||59001/002, 59004/005||Acquired from Mendip Rail in 2019.|
|6||59201-59206||Acquired from DB Cargo UK in 2019.|
|81||66501-520, 66522-526, 66528-529, 66531-534, 66536-572, 66585, 66587-594, 66596-599|
|19||66601-607, 66610, 66613-623||66608, 66609, 66611, 66612, 66624 and 66625 have been exported to Poland, the operating subsidiary Freightliner PL.|
|70||2009-2011||19||70001-70011, 70013-70020||70012 dropped while being unloaded at Newport; returned to manufacturers and is currently used as a test bed.|
|86||Electric locomotive||1965-1966||Bo-Bo||16||86604, 86605, 86607-86610, 86612-86614, 86622, 86627, 86628, 86632, 86637-86639||Stored out of service after introduction of additional Class 90.|
|Class||Image||Type||Introduced||Wheel arr.||In traffic||Numbers|
|EMD Series 66||Diesel||2006-07||Co-Co||13||66008-011, 013-015 & 66601-606|
|Newag Dragon E6ACTd||Electric
(Diesel last-mile slave)
|2016||5||E6ACTd-101 - E6ACTd-105|
|Class||Type||Introduced||Wheel arr||In traffic||Numbers|
|GL Class||Diesel||1971-72 remanufactured 2004||Co-Co||2||GL111-112|
|G Class||1988||2||G533, G535|
|Class||Type||Introduced||Wheel arr.||In traffic||Numbers||Notes|
|Shunting and local operations|
|Vossloh G 2000||
|EMD Class 66||Co-Co||Withdrawn, lease ended|
|BR182 (Siemens ES 64 U2)||Electric||Bo-Bo||
|BR185 (Bombardier TRAXX)||
|BR189 (Siemens ES 64 F4)||
((citation)): Missing or empty